Michael Spencer

Retail Content Strategist
A Futurist who is a LinkedIn Top Voice, often featured in the Retail & Ecommerce channel, Michael covers Amazon, retail innovation and retail store trends on a regular basis. In addition, he ghostwrites, manages retail content strategy and does social media for technology startups.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2018

    Are photos of packages on doorsteps helpful?

    Of course, anything that facilitates trust and the last-mile of delivery is helpful to the customer. When Amazon acquired Ring, it's putting a stamp on the security aspect of the smart home. As voice-activated E-commerce becomes more common, this means that everything is verifiable and will be become automated. Waymo and Uber both have self-driving trucks, how long until Amazon gets skin in the game to compete with UPS and FedEx with logistics to close the loop? We live in an era of computer vision, a picture is worth well, that extra mile of convenience.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2018

    When it comes to Millennials, focus on the HENRYs

    Correction to this text, Millennials end at 1995 where Gen Z begins. We've moved far beyond these definitions of how to attract the new consumer. Indebted Millennials are discount natives that hustle and live for the most part paycheck to paycheck -- how absurd to think of them as a HENRY.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2018

    Robots become the moving force behind Zara’s click and collect ops

    It makes perfect sense; it's akin to ecommerce warehouse optimization. There are a lot of indicators Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are migrating away from Fast Fashion towards off-price and second hand clothing shopping, and models that resemble more the "sharing-economy." It's the age of subscription models, not throwaway clothing.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2018

    Amazon offers special Prime rate for millions of Medicaid recipients

    Amazon with the UBI state that's coming in the 2020s is going after the discount shopper and Walmart's customers in many new ways. The average Prime member spends $1,300 a month, and its new checking account will target students. Discounted Prime for people on food stamps and Medicaid are simply new ways to serve the masses. When peak automation hits you understand that's millions of jobs lost on the front lines of transportation, retail, finance and other verticals. The "everything store" will be there to catch them.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2017

    How should retailers use social listening tools?

    Could it be that customer reviews are actually the most salient big data on your brand that can be best optimized to improve and complements existing customer analytics insights? Customer questions, concerns and requests on IM chat, chatbots, in-store and online customer reviews all have to be synced. Omnichannel is not just a customer experience, but a way to streamline data to optimize your business. While product analytics and algorithms that help cross-sell and suggest products to customers is optimal for monetization, knowing your customer is the ultimate tool for retailers. In just a few years, this "social listening" will be automated as will marketing automation for retail. The idea that human beings have to do this and sync data-streams is down right prehistoric. Social media here doesn't provide the best quality insights at all. Sales associates in-store have much better feedback to give to increase the value of the data. But at the end of the day, what will you do and implement with the insights? That's the critical touch point of the data funnel to improve your business and reach your ideal customer better.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2017

    Are Millennials and Gen Z more about convenience or price when they shop?

    Due to how well Amazon Prime is performing with the new consumer, the way E-commerce scales in the 2020s is higher than anticipated. It's not e-commerce per se, it's the rise of retail ubiquity. Augmented reality and even 3D-printing are bright future lights of retail ubiquity. The new consumer is primed by these tech events that will alter the future of "retail." Buying via Alexa won't be uncommon when you will be able to talk to your voice speaker of your home; and showroom on VR glasses; this is coming. For the new consumer, "experience" is not limited to in-store. Showrooming is seeing a huge rise; but BOPIS isn't really scaling that well. I'm not sure Gen Z will have the discretionary income not to shop via Amazon, Alibaba, etc. Amazon's in-house brands will can can disrupt even fast fashion retail; combined with the rise of a new advertising Titan is not just convenience or price, it's the value of the entire "experience network." Expecting Target or Macy's to compete with that is just silly. As Google is not just search, it's the leading AI company -- thus Amazon is no longer just e-com Cloud company, it's a "Fulfillment company." If you're not 20-something or in tune with young people, you're not in a good position to understand the behavior of the new consumer. They are poorer but also mobile native in ways you cannot understand easily. I'm not sure this can be reduced to convenience vs. price; it's bigger than that. The retail ubiquity network is about value at all levels, that are able to hack both discount, entertainment aware, mobile gamified conditioned younger Millennials and Gen Z. Amazon owns middle class young professionals, so for them it's about convenience. But this cohort is a lot poorer and for those it's about price. Both segments are equally valuable.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2017

    Will image shopping jumpstart m-commerce?

    I've been following social commerce closely for years; UGC was one of the most authentic ways to leverage social influencers in a customer-centric way. However, mobile commerce never took off in any major way. Pinterest has turned into more of a visual search site; if YouTube has turned into the premier video search site. Instagram for all its personal brand glory, doesn't convert -- it's a brand discovery channel. As such mobile commerce via social is a dream. Augmented reality could help, but for conversion to take place you'd need e-commerce to mature with next-gen VR experiences to create the required immersion and product "experience." VR could replace in-store showrooming, but not in its current state. Instagram is flashy, Pinterest is useful, but consumers don't use those channels for shopping; they are inspirational in nature. Advertizing is one thing; buying is quite another. Starting an e-commerce business is one of the hardest in the world for a reason! Shoppers still delight in stores. Until tech catches up with reality (which is coming); you cannot mimic product showrooming online -- yet. BOPIS is not an alternative, it's a poor man's substitute -- a la Walmart.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2017

    Will Amazon’s on-demand manufacturing create trouble for fast-fashion?

    Amazon's in-house fashion brands are doing well and overtaking Macy's will be a big milestone in 2017. Amazon's evolution of on-demand manufacturing, logistics and global e-commerce takeover is truly remarkable. Since Amazon is making serious strides as an Entertainment brand; it's e-commerce monopoly in the 2020s is liable to become even more dominant than the current marketshare indicates. This will push Amazon to be the most valuable company in the world; and being a leader in retail automation will be a big part of that. Amazon isn't dumb; it knows the future of fast fashion is actually 3D-printing and on-demand customization of products in new ways. The key point here is fast-fashion itself can be disrupted.
  • Posted on: 04/14/2017

    What will the fourth industrial revolution mean for retail supply chains and jobs?

    It's fairly clear that the automation economy will be fairly catastrophic for retail jobs. Remember, in 2017, more than 9,000 stores will close (more than in 2008). As Amazon opens up brick and mortar stores along with its various other kinds of services such as AmazonFresh; and as mobile sign-in replaces retail lines and checkout, millions of jobs become obsolete. Unlike some industries, Retail does not "add" these jobs elsewhere. Robots and autonomous vehicles in the logistics and supply chain are a whole different story and yet another batch of jobs. All told, it's not hard to see this resulting in a net loss of 3-6 million retail jobs by 2030.
  • Posted on: 04/14/2017

    Are retailers missing the social marketing boat if they’re not on YouTube?

    Yes, visual marketing is going into video now in a mainstream way. This includes Instagram Stories, Instagram videos, a YouTube Channel for long-form videos and using Video native to Facebook in Ads with captions. For the new consumer, developing trust is more than just customer views; it's the stories you tell in video. Mobile-first content is video, period.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2017

    Using a social app to prepare for a U.S. retail launch

    It's a good strategy, especially if the app has a utility beyond just their own brand. Shoppers near extensive incentives to download and keep using apps, otherwise it's difficult to obtain meaningful data. Apps that perform well (e.g. Starbucks) tends to add real value to the brand and shopping experience. Retailers often have issues with localization and expanding into new regions of the world. The problem is, as a consumer, if the app rating is significantly below 4.0, there's resistance to using and keeping to use it. The app ratings have a VERY high level of impact upon trust, that could damage the expansion further if it under-performs. You will notice apps that consumers actually keep using, tend to be well above 4.0. Perhaps they did not research the market enough to create the right app, thus the market research they obtain from the app may be limited.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2017

    Should retailers obsess about e-mail blast timing?

    Part of personalizing and segmenting lists is sending them at the right time. Tools like Rabbut even send them when a person signs in. Day of week and time of day matters, some are better for open rates, other better for click rates. Depending on the nature of the campaign and the segment used, the ideal time will change. Retailers continue to be pretty bad at email marketing, in an age where open-rates lag, SMS marketing and chatbots have emerged. Guess what happens? Higher open-rates and higher click rates. Since email still has relatively high ROI, retailers keep doing it and our ESPs improve. Gone are the days when Mailchimp was sufficient; there are better tools for better prices out there today. It's pretty pointless to generalize, but common sense still wins out. Many people check their Email first thing in the morning. Time of day might change by day of week, know your audience! Evening or weekend may have lower open-rates, but what about those click rates. That's often more important.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2017

    Can UPS fly past Amazon in drone delivery?

    I expect the drone delivery market to heat up very quickly in the second half of 2017 and 2018, with Amazon, UPS, Alphabet, DHL (in Germany) and specialized startups like Daimler getting into the mix. It's the same for robotic delivery, I think all of this scales much faster than people realize in convergence with AVs (autonomous vehicles). It's all about having the patents and existing logistic and fulfillment centers in place. I just don't see how UPS or traditional logistic providers can compete with the likes of Amazon.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2017

    How will AmazonFresh Pickup stores affect the grocery business?

    As many others have noted, for extremely high-density urban centers, AmazonFresh should do fairly well. Enough to disrupt local grocery chains? Probably. Amazon's assault on brick and mortar shopping begins in 2017, but it scales rather rapidly. It's not just BOPIS, it's click and collect done right, with savings and a more seamless path to purchase. If it you are a working professional, if it saves you time, it saves you money. I agree with the others, by 2022, there's no reason why Amazon isn't a top five in grocery. Keep in mind, what BOPIS means (for a privileged few) circa 2025-2030, is literally sending a robot to drive in an AV (automated vehicle) to pick up an order likely made by your smart kitchen/fridge/dash/Alexa. How AmazonFresh and AmazonGo evolve will help define the future of convenience and fulfillment, and as technological as we are becoming, we still need to eat.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2017

    Do consumers want AI and AR in their mobile apps?

    Apps have incredible redundancy in a winner-takes-all market as consumers don't typically use many apps at any given moment. I also concur that we are seeing many signs of "post-app" innovation like the smart speaker and the emergence of hands-free IoT solutions. It's not AR or AI that apps require to be successful, it's integration among many verticals. An app that facilitates loyalty, mobile coupons, payments and other consumer benefits has the most chance of retaining customers. Think of what the Starbucks app does right compared to less ubiquitous applications. Apps for retail that integrate location marketing, loyalty points across brands, mobile-centric solutions such as digital receipts and mobile coupons have a greater chance of success -- because they impact consumers in their real shopping journeys. I'm skeptical about AR's application in retail, but AI in apps can connect and power the IoT of retail. What is Amazon Go but a mobile automation of the checkout experience or a "virtual checkout," if you will? We are starting to see QR codes used more in retail in 2017 and I expect this trend to continue. As personal virtual assistants evolve, they will help us personalize our shopping experiences better. AI has the potential to finally help personalize the shopping experience in ways that certainly can leverage AR, digital signage, loyalty marketing and product recommendations in a more seamless way in the coming years.
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